Press Conference with Transportation Leaders to Signal Highway Trust Fund Facing a Mayday Situation
June 25, 2014
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today, we are facing a mayday situation, and I am here to send an SOS call to Congress and the American people. We are on the verge of a Transportation Government Shutdown.
The Highway Trust Fund is facing an unprecedented financial crisis. The Trust Fund is the major source of funding for our surface transportation system - paying for highways, bridges, buses, transit rail systems, and more - and it is on the verge of bankruptcy. Congress needs to act now.
The law authorizing our surface transportation programs, MAP-21, expires on September 30th, and without action to extend the Highway Trust Fund, all payments to states stop on October 1st.
Even if we reauthorize our surface transportation programs, the Highway Trust Fund is short $18 billion for 2015 and $100 billion over the next 6 years. If we don't come up with additional revenue, for the first time in our nation's history we will not be able to fund any new projects.
But even before September 30th is a more immediate crisis in July when payments to the states will be slowed due to dangerously low levels in the Highway Trust Fund.
Because of the lack of action in Congress, DOT Secretary Foxx sent a letter to state DOTs last week to inform them that the situation is "dire." In this letter, Secretary Foxx wrote:
"[T]he balance of the Highway Trust Fund's Highway Account will likely dip below a critical threshold at which the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) must begin to implement cash management procedures."
"[I]f the trust fund becomes insolvent, DOT will likely need to delay some reimbursements owed to your agency. We understand and regret that such measures may be necessary as the current construction season is ongoing. We have and will continue to sound the alarm bell that hundreds of projects and thousands of jobs are at risk."
The Highway Trust Fund must be saved. It provides predictable, multi-year funding to states so they can plan and construct long-term highway, bridge, and transit projects. Nationwide there are 70,000 bridges that are structurally deficient, and 50 percent of our nation's roads are in less than good condition.
Thousands of businesses and millions of jobs depend on the Highway Trust Fund and the impacts of this uncertainty are currently being felt as many states have already announced that they are postponing or canceling critical transportation projects due to the fear that federal funds will be delayed or cut off. This will have a domino effect that will be felt throughout the economy.
Twenty-six states have already identified critical transportation projects that will be postponed or cancelled due to the fear that federal funds will be delayed or cut off. Let me give you several examples of what is at risk:
In Utah, there is $305 million in federal highway funding at risk, jeopardizing over 11,000 jobs and 175 projects, such as the reconstruction of I-15.
In Nevada, there is $350 million in federal highway funding at risk, jeopardizing over 4,600 jobs and 60 projects, such as the I-15 Speedway to the Arizona line.
In Kentucky, there is over $833 million in federal highway funding at risk, jeopardizing 100 projects. The Governor has stated that many projects may be delayed because of the financial risk.
In Idaho, where federal funds make up 68% of the highway capital budget, there is over $275 million in federal highway funding at risk, jeopardizing over 4,800 jobs and 85 projects, such as reconstruction of US 95.
In Georgia, where federal funds make up 76% of the highway capital budget, there is over $1.2 billion in federal highway funding at risk, jeopardizing 20,000 jobs and over 350 projects, such as the extension of managed lanes on I-85 in Gwinnett County.
I support the Senate Finance Committee's plan to mark up legislation tomorrow that will keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through the critical construction season. Their action is now necessary to stave off disaster, and I urge my Republican friends on the Finance Committee to join the Democrats to save the Highway Trust Fund.
Taking action to save the Highway Trust Fund is strongly supported by businesses, labor, and transportation organizations. And it should be strongly supported by all Members of Congress of all political stripes.
Senator Vitter and I came together to support a 6-year reauthorization bill. So did Senator Barrasso and Senator Carper; Senator Inhofe and Senator Whitehouse; Senator Sessions and Senator Sanders. Every member of the EPW Committee supported it.
The Senate Banking and Commerce Committees are also working hard on their portions of the surface transportation reauthorization bill, and the House must act as well. There is no time to waste.
The House has done nothing thus far to mark up any legislation to save the Trust Fund.
We must work together to fix the Highway Trust Fund - we cannot let it go bankrupt. To allow the Trust Fund to become insolvent would be unprecedented, painful, dangerous and unnecessary. Failure is not an option.